I read this article from Stephanie St. Claire, a self-described “unfunded entrepreneur” – “11 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Business”.  I think I read this middle of 2013, and just kept it in my list of sites to remember, and articles I want to blog about because I enjoyed it.  Obviously, right?

St. Claire writes about many aspects of starting her business and the journey to wherever it is she is today – still fighting the good fight.  She traverses the messiness of divorce, selling her home, a meager $14 left on her bank account, and so much more.  She says she’s a good writer, and her creativity truly comes out in her writing making her article more fun to read.

So, while reading her article, I wanted to touch on a few of her 11 points, whether or not I agree or disagreed.  Armed with my own experience with Body Boss and others from the past, my thoughts:

  • Her first point: One. Running the business is your first priority.  I quickly learned from Body Boss that it’s not about Working Out, meeting Coaches and Trainers, watching Players crush it in the gym that will occupy a great deal of my time.  Instead, it’s about the little things like taking care of business.  I don’t think it’s as much as 15% of my time.  However, it includes all the little things like paying the bills and ensuring the insurance for the company is in line, the LLC exists year to year, answering emails quickly on the weekend, or staying on the phone to trouble-shoot issues after my afternoon game of soccer pick-up.
    Like the Sharks on Shark Tank tell so many inventors, inventions are great, but inventions alone aren’t businesses. 
  • Two – Ready to meet your soul mate?  It’s you.  While really working more and more on Body Boss during my MBA program at Emory May 2012 through May 2013, I became so much more in tune with myself.  My time during the MBA program actually was one of my greatest – not necessarily for the program itself, but the time I was able to “work on myself”.  That’s actually what I tell everyone about the greatest takeaway from MY time at Emory.
    Be comfortable in your own skin, and be comfortable being yourself.  Not everyone will buy your idea and buy into what you’re trying to accomplish.  You’ve gotta stay true to yourself.  Like business like personality, St. Claire’s point from Ten – Email will be your new best frenemy – “Not everyone is your customer”.
  • Four – Running out of money is a common part of the journey.  St. Claire writes about how dreams of flying high hit rough air with the gas gauge near zero forcing her to land into the “wild, abandoned air strip called Bank Balance: Fourteen Dollars”.
    I kinda like the idea of having less options when you’re starting something out.  Understanding everyone has his/ her own life, but with a more “complex” situation comes more excuses.  By having options or working part-time, you may not feel the pressure to really make your startup work.  When you’re staring at no income but still bills to pay, you start to really push yourself to make it work… else, you crash land and watch as your startup go up in smoke.  Back anyone up into a corner, and you give her no choice but to fight. 
  • Now that I’ve pointed my thoughts around going full-bore on your startup, here’s St. Claire at point Five – Build a hybrid stream of income.  Okay, so obviously hitting some meager amount in your bank where you can’t even pay bills is a bit of a problem.  Something’s gotta give.  St. Claire talks about how picking up some other part-time gig to supplement income could be beneficial – adding financial stress to an already immensely stressful situation can be even more taxing.  She says that if you believe part-time income would serve to put your mind at ease, then do it.
    I think this is sage advice if only you take on legitimately part-time work.  If you’ve just gone ahead and taken full-time work or pulled in part-time work that demands more time than your business, I think that’s a mistake.  Your business should be priority #1 as it requires dedication and care to succeed.  Splitting time, again like said above, may not give you the right motivation to truly push yourself. 
    What else I’ve found is that most people (your customers or even co-workers included) only have so much daylight to work with you.  If you don’t have a majority of your time to work on your business, you may miss prime time where customers need you, or simply, you may be missing prime time for selling.  You’re likely not selling to entrepreneurs like you who are working non-stop.
  • Six – Read Steven Pressfield’s Do the Work. Simply put from St. Claire (and Pressfield’s book) is something I’ve found to be true: “[The biggest] challenge you will deal with in running a business is your own resistance”.  You will no doubt harbor doubts and excuses, and those around you may tell you you won’t succeed or you should go back to a cushy, safe job, but ultimately, it’s your choice.
  • Eleven – Number eleven is a hodge-podge.  From St. Claire: “Work out perplexing issues in your business and it will resolve problems in other areas of your life. Breathe, play, laugh.”  I think the key message here is that if you fix some major areas of your business (you know the problems, probably), you could benefit in alleviating other areas of your life.
    And yet, like the point above about taking on a part-time job if you need to to mitigate financial stress, you should maintain your life still.  That is, still make time to enjoy the little things of life.  That may include exercise, friends, and especially family. 
    What are your thoughts about St. Claire’s 11 lessons?  Any of them resonate more so with you than others?

    Today’s post is a bit different… Not talking about any supply chain or job specifically, but I wanted to touch on something that’s been on my mind a lot recently with my co-founded startup Body Boss Fitness.  That, and David Cummings has a great post about this: part-timing to build a product and company — great post and tough lesson (see article here).  It highlights a few very important lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs especially the need to run full-speed on a project.  That being said, I’d also like to  point out a few take-aways specifically for those aspiring entrepreneurs (this list is not all inclusive nor exhaustive, just immediately on my mind).  

    1. Building a business is tough.  Taking the plunge is not for everyone understanding there are life circumstances and personalities that necessitate bootstrapping a project.  Wheels may spin, and it’d be great to have that all crucial customer feedback soon and up front.  The key, I believe, is continuous learning along the way even if it’s internally focused (learning how to code, dealing with the attrition of team members, etc.).
    2. Be ready to commit at the right time.  Building on the preceding bullet, committing full-time to development of the product would be great, however, there are extenuating circumstances (yes, I’ll include “fear” here) that may necessitate bootstrapping.  What will surely kill your startup is launching and doing nothing to nurture it.  I learned this when friends and I launched ABigEffU.com.  Huge failure.  We developed it in 30 days, but after it launched, we just sat back thinking it would just take off.  It was a stupid move, and one that I also didn’t commit to because it was more of a challenge if we could build something but I wasn’t passionate about it.  There’s a big lesson learned — startups don’t go anywhere without care and attention (and some love).  It’s kind of like having a baby… take care of the baby while in the womb, yes.  You can still work, go out with friends (don’t drink, please), etc. while the baby’s in there.  But when that baby comes, you better be ready to commit to parenting.  (Maybe a bad analogy, but you get the point.)
    3. It’s about you.  I love ABC’s show Shark Tank.  Thank goodness I have a DVR so I can watch it and fast-forward through commercials.  Anyways, you hear some pretty wacky ideas on there, and some pretty good ones.  You can really tell who will succeed when you watch and listen to some of these presenter, nevermind their product.  I remember when I was in the Boy Scouts, I was at summer camp.  My friends and I started a “business” where we sold Magic Pens.  Magic Pens were nothing more than sharpened sticks with charred ends.  They let people write on the canvas of their tents and easily washed off.  We even dipped the end of the Pens in wax as a sign of authenticity and quality!  We sold them for a nickel with varying packages.  We ended the week with $10 in our pockets — enough to buy several slushies at the Trading Post.  Something so simple and silly that all of our customers knew how to make, but they still bought it to the tune of $10 (99% profit).  I didn’t know all the kids who bought the Magic Pens.  They bought because we did well marketing and selling charred sticks.  It’s about you… not necessarily your product.
    4. Be resilient.  And as David highlights, most startups fail.  Heck, Venture Capitalists pick 10 really, really good startups to fund with the hope that ONE of them will make it big. However, a key deciding factor of how a company will make it (potentially the ultimate) is the people.  Are they resilient?  Do those on the SharkTank take the hits and despite not getting love from the Sharks, do they learn, and are they passionate enough to succeed?  Spending weeks, months, or even years bootstrapping is one thing but once you launch, be resilient and focused to win.  Hear your customers, investors, and choose what you listen to.  Be resilient. Steve Jobs always had this notion that to succeed, you tell customers what they want.  Of course, you won’t succeed if you always ignore.  But you have to know which to listen to and what to file away.  J.K. Rowling pursued 12 publishers who all rejected her manuscript for Harry Potter before finding Bloomsbury.  I think she’s doing alright.

    Like in grade school, “In conclusion…”, David’s got a great post about committing full-time to a project.  But if you’re a bootstrapper, you’re probably a bootstrapper for a lot of reasons, but make sure you’re learning along the way and you’re pushing the company and product as fast as you can.  This is especially true if you know this area is the next hot market — you don’t want to start competing against the world, afterall.  Just know that at some point, if you really want it to grow, you need to devote your time, energy, and love full-time.  The company is yours so it’s all about you and what you put into it, and how you can stay resilient to your product while knowing what to hear and what to listen to.  Like David said, it’s “tough” but he never said impossible.  

    Strive for greatness fellow entrepreneurs!

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    [1] Body Boss is a performance tracking application for sports teams and organizations.  Coaches can build customized workouts for their players to ensure workouts achieve fitness goals and beyond.  Body Boss creates social competition, continuously motivating and challenging players while driving accountability.  With Body Boss, coaches and players now have a competitive edge to win the battle off the field to deliver results on the field.Visit us at www.BodyBossFitness.com or contact us at info@bodybossfitness.com.


    [2] David Cummings is a serial entrepreneur and investor in Atlanta, GA.  Mr. Cummings founded Hannon Hill and Pardot. Recently, Pardot was acquired by ExactTarget for $95.5MM.  You can view his blog here.